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Top 10 Meals on Oahu?

aching Jul 14, 2010 11:23 AM

My husband and I just booked a week on Oahu in September - I spent a lot of time there as a kid but haven't been back in 10 years, and my husband has never been. The place we're staying, which is in Kailua, has a kitchen and a grill, so we do not plan to eat out every meal - I figure we will probably have 10-12 meals out. I've read many of the other posts on this subject and have seen KaimukiMan's amazing encyclopedic lists of all things edible on Oahu, but I was hoping you all could help me narrow it down, so here are my questions:

1. What are the 10 best meals on Oahu? Price is not a huge concern and we are expecting that one of the meals will be at Alan Wong's, but our preference is to mostly stay away from tourist spots and eat the best local food. Holes-in-the-wall are great for us! So far, I'm thinking Nico's, Little Village Noodle House, Poke Stop, and Helena's...

2. Would you recommend the Sunday brunch at Orchids at the Hale Kulani, or is it a tourist trap?

3. When I was a kid, my family's favorite restaurant was Keo's, but I don't see much mention of it here on CH. Is it still good?

4. Since we're staying on the windward side, any particular recommendations over there? It sounds like Boots & Kimo's is worth a visit?

Thanks in advance!

-----
Nico's At Pier 38
1133 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen
119 Hekili St, Kailua, HI 96734

Orchids
2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Helena's Hawaiian Food
1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Keo's In Waikiki
2028 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

  1. puiwa Jul 14, 2010 01:06 PM

    On the windward side, I really enjoy the breakfasts at Cinnamons. The Farmer's omelette is huge, and you can subsitute the regular pancakes with their awesome carrot cake pancakes for a tiny bit more $. They make an awesome hollandaise for their benedicts; I remain a traditional fan, but they have about 5 or 6 different varieties. I read in Mid-Week that they now have red velvet pancakes, but the last time I went there, several months ago, they did not yet have those.

    1. j
      Joebob Jul 14, 2010 01:33 PM

      Because you will stay in Kailua, let me recommend Casablanca, 19 Hoolai, 262-8196. It is pretty inside, the food is very good and reasonably priced, and I don't remember any corkage fee for our brought bottle.

      -----
      Casablanca Restaurant
      19 Hoolai St, Kailua, HI 96734

      1. aching Jul 26, 2010 01:30 PM

        Thanks for the recs! We have made reservations at Alan Wong's and for Sunday brunch at the Hale Kulani but would still appreciate any additional guidance you Hawaii Hounds can offer (especially with regard to local favs and holes-in-the-wall)!

        -----
        Alan Wong's Restaurant
        1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

        8 Replies
        1. re: aching
          c
          curiousgeo Jul 26, 2010 02:12 PM

          KaimukiMan, a regular poster on these boards has a pretty extensive list of local favorites. I don't know if this is his most updated version, but you can find it in the "where to eat in Oahu?" post, just a bit lower on this board. It's a great starting point for visitors looking for good eats.

          1. re: curiousgeo
            aching Jul 27, 2010 09:19 AM

            I've read KaimukiMan's list - it's amazing! - but I was hoping for suggestions to help narrow it down...

            1. re: aching
              KaimukiMan Jul 27, 2010 02:48 PM

              awww.... thanks guys

              that list does have some asterisks which are or have been favorites, but here are some "gotta do's"

              rainbow drive in
              leonards malasadas
              nicos (you already mentioned)
              cocktails on the terrace at the halekulani at sunset
              either helena's or ono's for hawaiian food
              shave ice (waiola store or matsumotos-preferably both)
              shrimp truck, even if its blue water at kaiolu and kuhio

              if you get most of these no one is going to be able to accuse you of shirking your culinary duties.

              would be good if you were able to add one of the top level restaurants too..... alan wong's, roy's, mavro (meh), or maybe 3660. Town is a good add too. If you are at ala moana the pineapple room or mariposa.

              keo's is still good thai food.
              sunday bunch at orchids is great (if you can get reservations), but given the choice, i'd still choose pupu's and cocktails at sunset. ok.. do both...LOL

              you can get great chinese and other asian food in LA, so thats not a big priority for you im guessing. korean food here is not up to LA standards either.

              other than keo's what were your favorites growing up?

              1. re: KaimukiMan
                manomin Jul 27, 2010 04:56 PM

                Town is a great addition! I just had lunch there Friday and yesterday. Everything was so delicious simply prepared letting the food speak for itself almost everything locally sourced. They have an amazing cocktail menu as well.

                1. re: KaimukiMan
                  aching Jul 27, 2010 06:35 PM

                  Hmmm...Well, in addition to Keo's, we used to go to a chain called Kim Chee a lot and also one called Yum Yum Tree (now defunct, I think) - I loved their coconut pie. I also loved the green tea ice cream at Dave's (also now defunct?). Hale Vietnam was a family favorite, as was 3660 On The Rise. My parents would go to Alan Wong's every time we visitied, but they would always leave and my brothers at home with my grandma. =) I remember loving having lunch with my mother at the cafe at the Contemporary Museum. I also loved the mud pie at Duke's. I remember eating a LOT of Chinese food (since my family is Chinese) but I don't remember any specific restaurants. I also remember a lot of inari, spam musubi, and red bean bao, but again, I don't remember specifically where we would get those things. I have nothing but great food memories from Hawaii! However, even though my dad grew up there, he never took us to some of the classic places like Rainbow Inn, and we never had shave ice or Hawaiian food - I don't know why! So I definitely want to try those things this time.

                  Thank you all for your suggestions - if you have any more, please share!

                  -----
                  3660 On the Rise
                  3660 Waialae Ave Unit Frnt, Honolulu, HI 96816

                  Kim Chee Restaurant
                  46-010 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

                  Hale Vietnam Restaurant
                  1140 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

                  Duke's Restaurant & Barefoot Bar
                  2335 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                  1. re: aching
                    t
                    trvlcrzy Oct 18, 2010 08:15 PM

                    We did stop by Dave's on our way to Kailua Beach from Waikiki. Yes! It's in this wooden western looking shopping shopping center/strip mall. Bought a pint of green tea and ube...wiped it out a the beach!
                    And then we stopped by Agnes' Portugese pastries on our way back...Sorry, need to look for the photo of Dave's somewhere (I took it for evidence).

                  2. re: KaimukiMan
                    aching Jul 27, 2010 06:55 PM

                    Oh, and yes - great Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai are a dime a dozen here in LA, so it's not a high priority - although if there was a really great place for one of these cuisines in Hawaii we would be happy to go...

                    1. re: aching
                      KaimukiMan Jul 28, 2010 03:19 AM

                      Kim Chee is someplace I used to go to a lot, but either my taste buds have become more discerning for Korean food, or the Kim Chee chain went downhill. I've been twice in the last 10 years at the insistence of some friends, and both times i thought it was pretty awful. Hale Vietnam is still there and still has really good, if somewhat americanized, food. The Dave's on Kapahulu is indeed gone, not sure about any of the other locations. And the rest of the places you mentioned are going strong.

                      -----
                      Kim Chee Restaurant
                      46-010 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

                      Hale Vietnam Restaurant
                      1140 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

            2. n
              NoHawaiiThisYear Jul 29, 2010 06:41 PM

              Just go back from Oahu, too many places to eat, had one disappointment.

              Alan Wongs: always go when we're in town, never disappointed. Took the entire family for the first time, everyone except my son enjoyed it (he's not fan of getting dressed up). Wife and brother-in-law had the 5 course tasting menu and daughter had the Kona lobster 2 ways; they raved about their dishes. Mother-in-law had the Mahi-Mahi with Stir Fried Vegetables, she usually can't finish a dinner but cleaned the plate. I had the mochi encrusted opakapaka, it was good, but next time I'd take the waiter's recommendation and order the pan steamed opakapaka. Kid's tip: son and daughter ordered fruit punch, probably expecting Fanta or Meadowgold, but Alan Wong's appears to make it from scratch (I didn't have a sip), spoiled them for life. In the past have gone to Mavro's and Roy's Hawaii Kai, both good, but we like the food better at Alan Wong's.

              Also went to Helena's, Rainbow Drive-In (out of the roast pork special, too bad), had poke from Tanioka's, ate Rainbow cake from Dee Lite (dillingham) and Dobash from Liliha bakeries, Shiro's Saimin, and Zippy's are all good local places to eat. Libby's (off Kahili St) for manapua, pork hash and half moon dim sum.

              Don't see too many recommendations outside of the city, here are some if you're in the Aiea area:
              1) Young's Kalbee: Love their meat jun and mandoos, their lunch special is huge. Off Aiea Heights and Moanalua.
              2) Ice Garden: don't think shave ice is as fine as Waiola's, but they make up for it with optional mochi balls, azuki beans, ice cream or flan/custard toppings; family always orders shave ice with mochi balls. On second level of Times supermarket center, next to McDonald's off Aiea Heights and Moanalua.
              3) Kabuki: go here to get lunch for beach. Okazuya open in the morning except Tuesdays. Usually get cone sushi, chow fun, pork adobo, nishime, gobo, etc. For beach lunch we also get a zip or surf pac from Zippy's.
              4) Spicy Ahi: In Times supermarket off Kaahumanu (?). Tried this place for first time this year, brother-in-law recommended it. Kind of expensive for local food, but good food.
              5) Kiawe Grill: off Kamehameha hwy close to Kaonohi St. Everything cooked over kiawe, small number of tables, lack of air conditioning at the time. Next time I go, I'll have to get the kalbi. Steak didn't seem to have as much of the kiawe taste.

              Wanted to try in Wahiawa, but were closed:
              1) Sunnyside: Have wanted to try this place for awhile, hole in the wall known for loco moco and their pies, just closed when we pulled up at 1pm on Sunday.
              2) Shige's: been here before and enjoyed it, local food, was also closed on Sunday.

              Had to try the eggplant fries from Poke Stop. Mentioned this to my brother-in-law and he picked up some on the way home from work. Would second what someone else has mentioned on this board, eat them right away. By the time I got to them, they were pretty soggy (but I can see the potential they have).

              The one disappointment, Town. I had eagerly anticipated eating there because of the positive reviews here. Went last Thursday (missed Manomin by a day) for lunch. Took over 2 hours and the place didn't appear to be particularly busy. The panino I had was burnt. Maybe just a bad day for them, wanted to just get out of there at the end.

              Thanks to everybody for all the tips on this board, they come in handy.

              -----
              Alan Wong's Restaurant
              1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

              Rainbow Drive-In
              3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Ice Gardens
              Aiea Shopping Ctr, Aiea, HI 96701

              Young's Kalbee
              99-084 Kauhale St Ste A2, Aiea, HI 96701

              2 Replies
              1. re: NoHawaiiThisYear
                manomin Jul 29, 2010 07:20 PM

                Too bad for you and Town. I went again on Monday and had a wonderful lunch.

                1. re: NoHawaiiThisYear
                  KaimukiMan Jul 30, 2010 04:36 PM

                  my experience has been that town is on it about 95% of the time, every now and then they mess up. has happened to me twice. sad to hear you hit them on an off moment. thanks for the out of town tips, you are right they are mostly under represented.

                2. o
                  oahuguidegirl Jul 30, 2010 10:53 PM

                  I am really familiar with Windward side restaurants.

                  Formaggio Grill is awesome!!! Our favorite restaurant on the island is definitely Formaggios in Kailua.
                  Try some of their wines (large selection)
                  And the food winners for us are:
                  Appetizers..
                  Crab Fondue with Crostini
                  Lobster Bisque

                  Dinner
                  Steak Neptune

                  We do all our special occasion dinners here and sometimes come in and just get the fondue and the soup.

                  Also, Baci Bistro in Kailua has some really good dishes. We've never been disappointed. My husband had a lamb shank one time that was amazing and I specifically remember some really good lobster ravioli I had there. I also got some veal with prosciutto that was good.

                  For less expensive food..
                  Mexico Lindo is a good place, too. We love their guacamole and also their queso for apps and for our dinners we usually go with the chimichangas. I get mine with shredded pork or beef usually and my husband gets the crab chimichanga.

                  For a cheapish dinner
                  Teddy's Bigger Burgers
                  They have the best burger I have ever tasted. I like the western one. They have good shakes and onion rings, too.

                  For breakfast, I was underwhelmed by both cinnamon's and boots and kimos. We had boots and kimos supposedly awesome macadamia nut pancakes and we were made sick by how much sugar was in them. We could only eat a few bites.

                  -----
                  Baci Bistro
                  30 Aulike St, Kailua, HI 96734

                  Mexico Lindo
                  600 Kailua Rd Ste 109, Kailua, HI 96734

                  1. m
                    MRMoggie Aug 23, 2010 02:22 PM

                    Don't forget Agnes' Portuguese Bakery in Kailua, which we think has the best malasadas on the island (on any island), and with a kitchen, you can make French toast with their sweet bread that is a dozen times better than at most restaurants.

                    We aren't fans of Boot's and Kimo's, our favorite breakfast spot , the Deli, closed earlier this year.

                    With a grill, consider visiting Tamashiro's in Honolulu for some spanking fresh fish to grill, along with sashimi and poke'. In Kailua, we've tended to find the best Hawaiian fish at Safeway, as well as ahi sashimi and poke (make sure it's the 'Island Fresh' since the rest is likely from frozen fish).

                    About 20 minutes away in Kaneohe, we always have a terrific meal at Pah Ke's on Kamehameha Highway, next to the Kaneohe post office. Ask for Raymond, the owner, and ask him to help you put together a meal. We may see you there.

                    1. b
                      bkaneshiro Aug 29, 2010 12:40 AM

                      How come Nobody recommended any Japanese restaurants? We have some of the best, please consider Imana's Tei or Maguro Ya. Imana's has the best chanko nabe and O Toro sushi and if you sit and the maguro ya sushi bar and order omakase style or chefs choice of sushi you'll be amazed.

                      -----
                      Maguro Ya
                      3565 Waialae Ave Ste 108, Honolulu, HI 96816

                      1. j
                        Jazzaloha Sep 2, 2010 12:29 AM

                        Here are some comments on some of the suggestions, as well as some of my own suggestions:

                        1. I know people love Rainbows, but I sort of think it's overrated. You want something cheap and fast with decent portions, and you can't go wrong with Rainbows. But I don't think it's the best plate lunch place. For me, I'd choose HK's (in Mo'ili'ili), particularly their teri-bbq--flame-broiled (although I haven't been there in a while). I don't often hear people talking about this place, but for me it's the best teri bbq.

                        I also think Kaka'ako Kitchen is worth trying out. They have "upscale" plate lunches, sandwiches, salads and Lisa's Siu's desserts--especially her bread pudding (with creme anglaise, as to heat it).

                        Count me in as a fan of Town. I think sometimes the dishes don't work, but I appreciate the quality of cooking. Dishes I've liked there: risottos, green goddess salad and the roast chicken with torn bread. (Not huge portions, though.)

                        I'm not a huge fan of Matsumoto's. Unless you're already heading out to the North Shore, I wouldn't make a special trip just for that. You can go to Waiola or a bunch other places. I've been enjoying Hula Boba, which makes their shave ice out of ice milk (or it tastes that way) and they use fruit preserves for toppings versus syrup.

                        Nico's is fine, but I think I prefer Poke Stop.

                        For hole in the wall, you might want to try Mitsuken (garlic chicken) or Sugoi's which is sort of down the street from there (also known for their garlic chicken--both are pretty similar).

                        I like Helena's. You can tell they put a lot of love and care in their cooking, but I kinda wish their portions were a little larger. Ono's portions are big, and their quality is solid. I also love the lau-lau at Young's and Yama's.

                        Not a big fan of Boots and Kimo although that macadamia nut sauce is good. I'm not sure it's worth the wait, though.

                        I wouldn't go to Young's Kalbee (although, they're my favorite Korean plate lunch place), Kabuki or Spicy Ahi. They're not bad (I go to these places), but I'm pretty sure you have places in LA that are far better than these places.

                        Love Teddy's Burger's, but I'm not sure if you want to eat burgers while you're here in Hawai'i.

                        -----
                        Young's Kalbee
                        99-084 Kauhale St Ste A2, Aiea, HI 96701

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Jazzaloha
                          aching Sep 2, 2010 07:24 AM

                          Thank you for the detailed information! We're still a few weeks away from our trip, but I'm extremely excited!

                          1. re: Jazzaloha
                            manomin Sep 2, 2010 10:40 AM

                            Kakaako Kitchen may have good lunches but their lemon bars taste like particle board with no flavor whatsoever although they look completely lovely. And I am a lemon bar nut!

                            -----
                            Kakaako Kitchen
                            1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI

                            1. re: manomin
                              j
                              Jazzaloha Sep 2, 2010 11:07 AM

                              I don't think the lemon bars are that bad, but I wouldn't order those at Kakaako Kitchen. Besides the bread pudding (which is a must try), I like the carrot cake (when they have it). I wouldn't tell visitors to go to KK just for the dessert (not counting the bread pudding), but, if you live on O'ahu, I think it's a good place to get cake (the thick, dense, but moist variety). Plus, it's not as expensive as some of the other dessert places (i.e. Cafe Laufer, which I like).

                              -----
                              Kakaako Kitchen
                              1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI

                              Cafe Laufer
                              3565 Waialae Ave Ste 107, Honolulu, HI 96816

                            2. re: Jazzaloha
                              KaimukiMan Sep 3, 2010 11:31 AM

                              very good summary jazz. sadly i had two bad experiences in a row at HK's so I stopped going there. Have you tried da Kitchen yet?

                              1. re: KaimukiMan
                                j
                                Jazzaloha Sep 4, 2010 11:53 PM

                                No, I haven't tried da Kitchen. Do you think I should?

                                Re: HK's

                                What did you get? To me, they have the best teri bbq, in terms of the sauce and the cooking. Then again, I've been there a few times recently, and they seemed to have slipped a little. I don't think the owner cooks very much over there, so that might be the cause. In any event, they have been one of my favorite places. (In addition the teri bbq dishes, they may a solid chicken katsu and had decent fish dishes.)

                                1. re: Jazzaloha
                                  KaimukiMan Sep 5, 2010 08:28 PM

                                  one time the rice had actually started to spoil, another time there was a large indeterminate mass in the salad. The kitchen is worth trying, i thought the katsu was very good.

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                    j
                                    Joebob Sep 6, 2010 02:44 PM

                                    "...large indeterminate mass..." Yikes!

                                    Don't mince words KMan! tell us what you really think.

                                    1. re: Joebob
                                      KaimukiMan Sep 6, 2010 03:26 PM

                                      umm... yeah, so like i haven't been back

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan
                                        j
                                        Jazzaloha Sep 7, 2010 10:27 PM

                                        I've been eating at HK's for over twenty years, and I've never had that kind of experience. Then again, I'm not able to go very often now.

                                        But they really had the best (or my favorite, at least) teri bbq.

                                        I'll try to report back if I go to da Kitchen.

                                2. re: KaimukiMan
                                  m
                                  macaraca Sep 10, 2010 08:34 PM

                                  Tried Da Kitchen a week or two ago and was disappointed. Attractive inside, but we ordered two plate lunches to go, a huge burger and a garlic chicken. BF commented that when the bag came it was incredibly heavy. When we got home, we saw why. Each plate had enough rice for a family of four...not a bad thing, for some appetites, but overdoing it for ours. The burger was good, but too much for one normal adult meal. Garlic chicken disappointing, kind of tough and very much too salty. Music level pretty high, obviously aimed at a younger crowd. Other diners had massive Loco Mocos and vats of Saimin. I guess if starvation is an issue, it would be a good place to get over it quick. Doubt we would go back.

                                  -----
                                  Da Kitchen
                                  925 Isenberg St, Honolulu, HI 96826

                              2. b
                                Beach Chick Sep 2, 2010 10:44 AM

                                Aloha..
                                Heading out next week to O'ahu..
                                Your list will be helpful..
                                I posted about Aloha fav's and other happy hours in O'ahu..
                                We are going to try Alan Wongs Pineapple Room..
                                Lots of happy hour food and drink..
                                Have a great trip!

                                1. rcallner Sep 2, 2010 10:57 AM

                                  We had a great time in Kailua this spring - stayed at a place with a kitchenette and ate out a little, in a little. For when you're eating in, this grocery store, specializing in organic items, was a great find - http://www.downtoearth.org/our-stores...

                                  1. j
                                    Jazzaloha Sep 4, 2010 11:57 PM

                                    Btw, I don't recall seeing Liliha Bakery on this list. I think I'd choose this place over Boots and Kimo, not that they have great breakfasts--although I think they made the best pancakes. (it's just pancakes, but they're good for some reason.) But you should definitely go for some of their pastries--especially the coco-puff, which seems to be pretty unique to Hawai'i. Of all the local bakeries, I think this is the best one to try. (There's other pastries that are good, although they may not be so unique.)

                                    1. aching Sep 20, 2010 08:42 AM

                                      Just wanted to thank you all again for your recommendations - we're heading out on Wednesday and I could not be more excited! I made a map of the complete list for easier navigation when we're there:

                                      http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&...

                                      The pink pins indicate must-do's. If you have time to check it out and see anything wonderful missing, please let me know!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: aching
                                        g
                                        gajen Sep 20, 2010 09:27 AM

                                        Your map is most appreciated. I look forward to your post-trip comments.

                                        1. re: aching
                                          j
                                          Jazzaloha Sep 20, 2010 01:38 PM

                                          Some comments:

                                          I noticed you have three Hawaiian restaurants on the list. I don't think you have to go to all three. Imo, Helena's is the best in terms of quality--they have excellent and pretty unique pipikaula and very good squid luau. Everything is well-made, though. Ono's is also solid and they're portions are substantial. Highway Inn is OK, but a little pricey, imo.

                                          Btw, if you decide to go to Helena's, right down the street is a place called Mitsuken, which is known for their garlic chicken (basically, a deep fried boneless chicken with marinated in a garlic soy sauce). It's not a sit down place, but you could grab a bento just to try the chicken and then head to Helena's. (Check to see if Helena's is open for lunch, though.) Also, if you go to Mitsuken, you could possibly skip Sugoi's, which also serves a very good garlic chicken--unless you wanted to compare them. (Pretty similar, imo.)

                                          On the other hand, right next to Sugoi's (literally two or three store fronts away) is Young's Fishmarket, which serves arguably the best lau-lau. (They serve my favorite.) But I'd only go there if you love lau-lau and want to try them from different places.

                                          Wailana and Buzz's are places you could skip, imo. I go to Buzz's every once and a while, but it's not a place I'd tell visitors to check out. Ditto Wailana, which is basically a typical diner/breakfast place. If you want the true local diner experience, you should check out Zippys. (They're all over the place.) Their food is solid, although it's not exceptional or a place I would necessarily recommend--unless you wanted to try something a popular place in Hawai'i.

                                          At Poke Stop, I like getting the deconstructed sushi bowl. It comes with two grilled shrimps, tataki (which is sort of like seared sashimi with some seasoning), spicy ahi poke and tako (octopus) poke. This is served on a bowl of rice (you can choose fried rice, I believe, but I usually get them with brown rice). They also let you sample different poke while you there. They have some interesting specials of the day, so you can check that out as well. There is only outdoor seating, though, so it's not a great place to sit and eat.

                                          Re: Teddy's Bigger Burgers

                                          If you are in the mood for a burger, I believe Teddy's makes one of the best burgers on O'ahu. Worth trying if you're a burger person. (My favorite is the ortega burger at Kua Aina, however.)

                                          1. re: Jazzaloha
                                            j
                                            Joebob Sep 20, 2010 04:53 PM

                                            Remember the eggplant fries at Poke Stop, but EAT THEM WHILE HOT. See if they can put sprinklings of red pepper flakes and cumin on them.

                                        2. aching Sep 30, 2010 02:32 PM

                                          Hi all - Just wanted to report back on our trip. Kailua Beach was so incredibly gorgeous, we didn't end up eating as much as I had hoped, but we did get to try a few things, as follows:

                                          - Agnes's Portuguese Bakery: Hot Malasadas. These were absolutely delicious and really put American donuts to shame. We had them a couple times as it was very convenient to where were staying. Never made it to Leonard's, unfortunately - will have to on the next trip!

                                          - Alan Wong's Restaurant: Loco Moco, Short Ribs, and Fish (I think it was Opah, but I can't quite remember?). This meal was fabulous, and my favorite part was the Loco Moco, which was three little mochi-encrusted unagi "meatloaves" topped with quail eggs - incredibly delicious! I really wanted the pineapple upside-down cake for dessert but couldn't quite squeeze it in.

                                          - Halekulani - Cocktails at Sunset and Sunday Brunch - Very good, but you have to know going into it that you're paying for the setting as much as for the food - and paying quite a lot! To a visitor who was trying to decide between the two, I would recommend cocktails over brunch. First, it's a better value; second, the music and hula is really beautiful; and third, it's easier to appreciate the scenery on the lanai than inside the restaurant. Brunch was perfectly good, but I'm not really a buffet person (can't eat enough in one sitting to justify it) and $57pp is pretty steep. I did LOVE the macadamia nut tart, however.

                                          - Helena's - Pipikuala Short Ribs, Laulau, Kalua Pork with Cabbage, Poi - Yum. Parking was crazy and there was a short wait for a table, but I really enjoyed the food. The laulau was my favorite dish. I thought poi was gross when I was a kid and I thought my adult palate might be different now - but no, I still think poi is gross! It's an acquired taste, I guess. =)

                                          - KCC Farmer's Market - Kimchee Fried Rice, Sweet Bread French Toast, Pineapple, Mahi-Mahi - The market was really fun - it's not as big as our Hollywood Farmer's Market here in LA, but it had a great atmosphere. The food that we ate there (fried rice and french toast) was very good, and the pineapple was delectable. The mahi-mahi, which we took home and grilled, was a disappointment, though the fault may have been mine in the preparation - but it was quite fishy tasting, not as fresh-tasting as I hoped.

                                          - Liliha Bakery - Loco Moco, Pancakes, and Coco Puffs - This is a really great place - we loved the old-school diner atmosphere and counter service. I preferred the loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In, but the pancakes really were excellent - fluffy and buttery. And coco puffs are sinfully delicious. Because of the spelling, I expected something coconut-y, but instead they are basically chocolate cream puffs (similar to Beard Papa's - but with a more balanced proportion of filling to pastry, I thought).

                                          - Opal Thai Food - Summer Rolls, Chicken Curry, and Stir-Fried Noodle - This food truck on the North Shore was really fun, and it was great to get out of Haleiwa, which I found to be somewhat unpleasantly overrun with tourists. Opal is a doll and cooked us up a lunch to order. The food doesn't really compare to some of the great Thai restaurants here in LA, but as a complete experience, it was very fun.

                                          - Rainbow Drive-In - Loco Moco and BBQ Pork Plates - Excellent in a very low-brow way. It was husband's favorite place on the trip. We got our food to go and drove out on Diamond Head to eat it - fantastic!

                                          BTW, I really found my Google map (link above) to be very useful for navigating while driving around (using the MyMaps app on my iPhone). I hope it is helpful to some of you as well!

                                          Thanks again to all of you who made recommendations! Those of you who live there are very, very lucky - it is a truly incredible place.

                                          18 Replies
                                          1. re: aching
                                            j
                                            Jazzaloha Sep 30, 2010 04:20 PM

                                            Thanks for the report.

                                            Poi is definitely an acquired taste. I'm not a big fan myself. Plus, you have to eat poi with something else (fish, seafood, etc.). For example, my wife likes eating poi with tae-gu or even shrimp scampi.

                                            I'm glad to hear that Liliha's pancakes are still good. (On a visit last year, I felt like it went down hill slightly.) Why I like the pancakes is a little strange as they're basically just regular pancakes, but, for some reason, they're really good. (Btw, I did you get or see the "radioactive" jelly on the grilled butter rolls? That's something unique to Liliha, and I forgot to mention that.)

                                            Oh, and the coco puffs also have the dollop of chantilly (which makes them significantly different from Beard Papa)--it's one of best things about the puff.

                                            Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time!

                                            1. re: Jazzaloha
                                              Bill Hunt Sep 30, 2010 07:21 PM

                                              I have found that there is poi and then there is poi. I used to think that poi tasted like, well, dirt. Then I attended one of Alan Wong's New Wave Lu`aus, and tasted freshly pounded poi. What a difference. I will admit that we DID have dishes with it, and that might have made the difference. Sorta' like many Italian wines. As sippers, one wonders, "what's the big deal?" With the right food, they shine and then one knows.

                                              Hunt

                                              -----
                                              Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                              1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                              1. re: Jazzaloha
                                                aching Oct 1, 2010 07:34 AM

                                                Not having been to Liliha before, I couldn't say if the pancakes are as good as they used to be, but they were darn good - and I'm normally more of a waffle person!

                                                You're right about the chantilly on the coco puffs - that may be the magic touch! But I also think Beard Papa's have too much cream filling in them. Liliha's coco puffs to me were just right.

                                                -----
                                                Beard Papa
                                                7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96825

                                                1. re: aching
                                                  KaimukiMan Oct 1, 2010 10:46 AM

                                                  just a side note, don't do the waffles at liliha. they make them "some other time" and then thaw them out on the griddle. I think its the only thing on the menu that you shouldn't order. And yeah, that flourescent jelly is something else (i really don't want to know what else)

                                              2. re: aching
                                                Bill Hunt Sep 30, 2010 07:18 PM

                                                Now, when it comes to the Sunday Brunch at Orchids, I am a very big fan. I am anything but a "buffet person," but they take that to a whole different level. There has only been one other brunch, that gave them a run (Marquesa at the Scottsdale Princess), but they are now gone and only a memory.

                                                Everything about the Orchid's Sunday Brunch was excellent, in our book, and though not cheap, worth every $ that we spent.

                                                HWAK was barely OK, and I think that pu`pus around the pool with drinks, would have been the better experience. I do strongly agree that the entertainment is excellent, and when dining at La Mer, we normally choose seating over that area vs the oceanside seating, due to the high level of the entertainment below.

                                                Mahalo for the reviews,

                                                Hunt

                                                -----
                                                La Mer
                                                2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  aching Oct 1, 2010 07:37 AM

                                                  Just to be clear, we didn't have any food at HWAK, just cocktails - but I loved the experience. Maybe one reason I didn't love the brunch is that we had it later in the morning (11:30 to be exact) and it seemed a little picked over and as if some of the dishes had been sitting for a while. Actually, thinking back, that would only apply to the American foods. The Asian foods were excellent - some of my favorites were the watercress salad and the green papaya salad. And again, that macadamia nut tart was to die for.

                                                  1. re: aching
                                                    b
                                                    Beach Chick Oct 1, 2010 08:42 AM

                                                    We just had cocktails and app's at House without a key and though I love it for its drinks/app's, I would of hated to spend my hard earned $$ on a picked over brunch buffet..off the menu is the only way to go.
                                                    We had a nice salmon benedict with hollandaise at the Beach House at the Moana a couple hotels down for around $18.
                                                    The staff and service at the Halekulani is so wonderful.

                                                    1. re: aching
                                                      Bill Hunt Oct 3, 2010 07:43 PM

                                                      Our two brunches there were early, as we were dining fairly early those evenings, and wished for some time. In each instance, everything was very fresh, and was being replenished constantly. While each dish was not to my taste, each was done well, and I noticed that others were very appreciative of those particular dishes, that did not do it for me, or perhaps for my wife. With a multi-cultural brunch, there is likely to be a dish, or two, that is not to everyone's liking.

                                                      We'll miss them this trip, but I would definitely include them again.

                                                      Mahalo,

                                                      Hunt

                                                  2. re: aching
                                                    j
                                                    Joebob Sep 30, 2010 07:41 PM

                                                    Thank you for the thorough and informative report report. We will go to Liliha Bakery. Two Qs:
                                                    1. How long was the fish you got at KCC held at 80F or above until it was cooked?
                                                    2. Is it fair to compare Opal with La Rests. or with LA Thai trucks (though I'm sure there are better Thai trucks in LA)?

                                                    1. re: Joebob
                                                      aching Oct 1, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                      Hi Joebob -

                                                      1. I don't remember - how long should it be? I'm definitely not an expert in cooking fish so I'd really like to know!

                                                      2. I've never been inside a food truck, but I would imagine cooking in one is VERY different than cooking in a restaurant kitchen - so I definitely would not expect the same quality of food from a truck that I expect from a restaurant. That being said, Thai restaurants in LA are my basis of comparison for all other Thai food, so that was why I mentioned it. To be clear, we really loved our meal at Opal! I would highly recommend it to anyone headed to the North Shore.

                                                      1. re: aching
                                                        b
                                                        Beach Chick Oct 1, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                        We went pass Opal and they had about the same length of line as the famous Giovanni's shrimp truck for the best garlic shrimp with 2 scoops of rice..
                                                        We were way too full to try Opals but next trip!

                                                        1. re: aching
                                                          KaimukiMan Oct 1, 2010 10:47 AM

                                                          1) fish should never be allowed to get warm at all.

                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                            j
                                                            Joebob Oct 2, 2010 12:18 AM

                                                            Amen! That was my point.

                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                              j
                                                              Jazzaloha Oct 2, 2010 01:19 AM

                                                              Why shouldn't fish get warm (before cooking it)?

                                                              1. re: Jazzaloha
                                                                KaimukiMan Oct 2, 2010 12:39 PM

                                                                fish (especially salt water fish) is a very unstable protien, it starts to break down almost immediately after the organism dies, and therefore spoils quickly also. The taste changes signficantly, as well as the texture. The only way to counteract this is to keep it at least chilled, if not frozen.

                                                                I'm always amused by people talking about sashimi that has been previously frozen, since virtually all raw fish sold in the US is required to be frozen. That ahi probably wasn't caught at 5am the day you had it forlunch, it was caught a few days before, a few hundred miles offshore, and kept on ice ever since. Properly frozen fish is virtually indistinguishable from fresh for most people's palate.

                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                  j
                                                                  Joebob Oct 2, 2010 01:07 PM

                                                                  Lucky we live Hawaii, where, if the ahi IS frozen, they tell you.

                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                    j
                                                                    Jazzaloha Oct 2, 2010 05:24 PM

                                                                    Thanks for the info.

                                                                2. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                  aching Oct 4, 2010 09:08 AM

                                                                  Oh good, that's what I thought! We definitely didn't deliberately allow the fish to get warm, but of course there WAS the drive home between the market and our place in Kailua...The fish wasn't bad (definitely not spoiled), but it just wasn't great either. I think I will leave it to the pros next time. The fish we had at Alan Wong's, for instance, was delicious.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                                                  1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

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